Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has thanked Farm Credit for a generous donation of $35,000 to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s STAR Fund and encouraged ranchers to apply for Round 2 of assistance available through the fund. Created solely with monetary donations from private individuals and companies, the STAR Fund helps ranchers rebuild fences through an effort called “Operation New Fences.”

One of the most destructive wildfire seasons in Texas history scorched nearly 4 million acres and destroyed approximately 6,200 miles of critically needed ranch fences over the past year.

“Texans have struggled with unprecedented wildfire damage and the losses continue to be counted,” Commissioner Staples said. “While our farmers and ranchers have been hit especially hard, it’s important to remember their losses impact all Americans who depend daily on food, fuel and fiber. It’s been an extremely difficult wildfire season, but thanks to Farm Credit and the spirit of generous Texans, we are able to provide assistance to those who provide for us.”

Thanks to generous contributions and donations from Texans across the state, those approved for STAR Fund assistance may be awarded a voucher for fencing supplies worth up to $500 (exact voucher values will be determined based on the number of eligible producers applying). 

“Farm Credit lenders throughout the state have a proud history of supporting the agriculture industry,” said Stan Ray, on behalf of the Farm Credit Bank of Texas. “The recent wildfires have been devastating to many farmers and ranchers this year, and the Texas Department of Agriculture is doing a great job collecting donations and getting that money where it’s needed. We are proud to support this effort and encourage others to donate to the STAR fund, as well.”

“Texas farmers and ranchers are a vital part of the state’s economy and crucial to the cooperative system in Texas,” said Marc Adams, on behalf of the CoBank Regional Agribusiness Banking Group. “The devastating effects of the drought and wildfires are hurdles these tough people will overcome. We are proud to support the Texas Department of Agriculture and the good work they are doing through the STAR Fund, we hope the Farm Credit contribution will spur others to donate.”

To be eligible, applicants must submit a completed FSA 848 application for federal assistance through the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to certify that agriculture fences were damaged or destroyed due to wildfires. 

The following counties are eligible: Archer, Bastrop, Baylor, Brewster, Caldwell, Clay, Coke, Cottle, Crockett, Crosby, Dallam, Dickens, Fisher, Foard, Freestone, Garza, Hartley, Haskell, Hutchinson, Jack, Jeff Davis, Kent, King, Lipscomb, Limestone, Midland, Mitchell, Moore, Motley, Nacogdoches, Nolan, Palo Pinto, Pecos, Potter, Presidio, Randall, Scurry, Stephens, Stonewall, Taylor, Terrell, Terry, Throckmorton, Tom Green, Trinity, Val Verde, Wichita and Young.

Applications for Round 2 of STAR Fund grants are being accepted Nov. 1 through Nov.18. STAR Fund applications may be downloaded at www.TexasAgriculture.gov. Applications will also be available at local AgriLife Extension offices in counties that are eligible for federal ECP funding. All applications must be mailed to TDA and postmarked by Nov. 18, 2011.

To make a donation to the STAR Fund, or for more information, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on STAR Fund. Ranchers needing more information may also call (512) 475 -1615.

According to the Texas Forest Service, nearly 4 million acres have burned in Texas this fire season. The Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports total to-date Texas agricultural losses due to fire of more than $217 million.